Into the Woods – LUU Music Theatre

I was looking forward to seeing LUU’s Music Theatre Society’s production of ‘Into the Woods’ with much anticipation. What’s not to love about a combination of multiple fairy tales set to music? I was certainly not disappointed. It was, as is characteristic of musical theatre, a vibrant, passionate and exciting spectacle. The play started out with a narrator, played by Graeme Du Plessis, sitting to the side of the stage. For me, the narrator carried the play. He was an intriguing, mysterious character who was interwoven into the play’s narrative and became involved in the plot itself whilst also maintaining an ambiguously omniscient role. The audience soon became immersed in the brightly coloured and dramatic world of the fairy tale, as the opening scene contained appearances from the likes of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack (from Jack and the Beanstalk) and the archetypal Wicked Witch. Although it was initially chaotic due to the multiple solos taking place within a large chorus upon a busy stage, a visible plot line emerged and we were drawn into the alluring nature of the woods, along with the rest of the characters. The script cleverly combined key aspects from the fairy tales and merged them together to create a story, with the woods providing a key place for meetings and connections between the characters. Whilst normally the fairy-tale story is somewhat generic with an inevitable ‘happy ending’, the play had an interesting plot twist as the curtain fell down on Act One, announcing an interval at a point when the play seemed to have ended. Act Two followed with ‘what happened after the happy ending’, and all was not what it seemed. Marriages broke up, key characters died; perhaps this was a fairy tale from a more cynical point of view.

The principals were fantastic, and wowed the audience with their incredible singing voices. There was certainly not a weak link in the cast, but a few stood out for me: The Baker and the Baker’s Wife (John Meki and Georgina Wormald) were excellent and their chemistry was genuine in their interaction on stage; the Witch (Ellie Macpherson) and Cinderella (Imogen Halsey) blew the audience away with their singing voices; the princes (Freddy Jones and Kyle Harrison-Pope) played the comedy duo, who acted out a hilarious partnership of laddish banter and witty humour, as they consulted with each other about their wives. However, this doesn’t mean that the chorus shouldn’t get a mention. The whole cast worked smoothly as a team, and the choreography and singing in the chorus numbers had a powerful impact onstage. This was highlighted by the setting, which the Riley Smith Hall did wonders with.

The steps leading down from the back of the stage were laid out as book spines, as with Rapunzel’s tower. Across the front curtains was draped a large tree, portraying the Woods.

Musical Director Ashley Jacobs carried the cast and band well. The percussionists within the band were effective in creating comical sound effects for the characters’ actions.

All in all, director Eleanor Pead and producer Sally Stephens combined their artistic efforts to create a fun, entertaining piece of theatre, and as always the Riley Smith Hall production team were instrumental in carrying out a smooth operation to provide an immersive atmosphere.